Wales is to receive almost £57m from the UK government to improve its broadband coverage, says Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt. The money includes the £10m pledged by Chancellor George Osborne in February. Mr Hunt said it meant 90% of Welsh homes and businesses should be able to access superfast broadband once the infrastructure is in place. The Countryside Alliance said Mr Hunt’s announcement was “not before time” as reliable broadband was “a necessity”. Mr Hunt’s announcement come days after an Ofcom report showed that much of Wales has the worst broadband provision in the UK.
Twelve of Wales’ 22 council areas – mostly rural and in the north, mid and west – had the lowest overall score for broadband provision. The UK government has said every community in the UK will gain access to super-fast broadband by 2015 under plans outlined in December. Rural communities are increasingly being forced to depend on the internet for the survival of their businesses” Rachel EvansCountryside Alliance Wales
Ofcom defines superfast broadband as having speeds greater than 24 Mbps. Mr Hunt said the total figure he was announcing, £56.9m, was Wales’ share of the UK government’s £530m broadband investment fund. He said: “If the Welsh Government matches our investment, 90% of the country’s homes and businesses will have access to superfast broadband.” Business lifeline. On Monday, a Wales Office report on the rural economy said a lack of an adequate broadband connection was among the biggest frustrations for rural communities.
Countryside Alliance Wales regional director Rachel Evans said: “This announcement [by Mr Hunt] comes not before time. “Rural communities are increasingly being forced to depend on the internet for the survival of their businesses. “A reliable broadband network is a necessity if these communities are going to weather the recent financial troubles.” Welsh Government Business Minister Edwina Hart welcomed Mr Hunt’s announcement. She said: “We have a strong track record of investing to increase the availability and take-up of broadband in Wales. “This funding will help us build on this and reach our target of all residential premises and businesses having access to next generation broadband by 2015.”